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Enemies to port?

I've held off actually saying too much about the whole UAE-port management deal, as I had a hunch that there was a hell of a lot more -- and less -- to the story than was floating around. And I think I've got a grasp on a few of the more salient points.

My first reaction was, like many, outrage. The idea of a foreign nation -- especially a Muslim one -- running our ports struck me as insanely stupid, bordering on suicidal.

Then more and more details emerged. First, the ports in question were already being managed by a foreign company. What was going on was the English management company was being bought by a UAE company.

Second, it was strictly a management deal. They would not be owning the ports, or handling the security. This was a change at the very top, with the day-to-day, hands-on work would most likely not be affected.

Third, the UAE has been a pretty good ally of ours. They've got a few black marks -- for one, they were one of the few nations to give official recognition to the Taliban -- but they've been host to our troops on leave, our warships have been refueled and replenished in their ports, and so on.

Fourth, it appears that no US company was interested in taking over the port management. It's a far better example of "foreigners doing the work Americans don't want to" than the illegal-alien argument.

After I heard a few details, I felt a little better about the deal. I dismissed the security concerns, saying that the UAE wouldn't be running security. The docks themselves would continue to be run by the Mob, and I wasn't concerned about their ability to affect THAT. Little did I know how significant that wisecrack was.

So, just what was behind this explosion? What are the bigger issues behind it? And what have we learned about it?

First, the Bush administration has demonstrated a remarkable "tin ear" on matters that cut to the quick of their base. They demonstrated this with the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court, and this is another example. They SHOULD have realized this could have been a huge deal, and gotten ahead of it instead of ceding the initiative.

Second, the Bush administration overplayed its hand when it threatened to veto Congressional intervention in the deal. A softer approach would have been smarter, and threatening a veto (a power Bush has not used once in over five years) is almost laughable.

Third, the Democrats can get away with murder. If one were to put the howlings and rantings of such notables as Senators Clinton, Schumer, and the like into the mouths of conservatives, they'd be labelled as reactionary, protectionist, America-First paranoids alongside Pat Buchanan and his ilk. But instead, conservatives found themselves uncomfortably agreeing with these folks, and didn't look deeply enough into just what was behind it.

It took a few days, but the main actor behind the scenes might have overplayed its hand, and come to the forefront. I hit on it earlier in the week, but didn't realize it at the time.

Could this all have been a ploy by the Teamsters? Could this have been a huge PR ploy aimed at intimidating the new port management company, who they feared would be tougher to negotiate with?

Considering that it was largely Democratic politicians who first started raising a stink, and the unions are one of the most powerful constituents of the Democrats, I think it's a distinct possibility. And considering that China took over managing several US ports under Senator Clinton's husband's administration, I find it a bit hard to believe in her sincerity.

But simply because the Democrats and unions are opposed to a deal, does that mean it's bad? No. It's a good indicator, but not conclusive.

I've been a bit troubled by one element, and that's that the Democrats tend, as a national party, to not take the War on Terror seriously. In this case, though, they're making that THE deciding issue, and that discrepancy bothered me. That's very out of character for them. They don't usually work the big picture.

And thanks to Dafydd Ab Hugh, my suspicions were confirmed.

To sum up: right now the biggest concern we ought to have right now is Iran's headlong rush to acquire nuclear weapons. And the UAE sits right on the Strait of Hormuz, the chokepoint of the Persian Gulf. Keeping very close ties with the UAE is critical. And Dubai Ports World has a very good record of managing ports.

So I think that the potential risks in letting DPW take over managing six of our ports are minimal, while the benefits to be gained are tremendous. I can even get over being on the same side of the issue as Jimmy Carter.

But any time Hillary Clinton, Pat Buchanan, and Big Labor are all agreeing on an issue, I think that's almost enough to sway my opinion to the opposite.


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Comments (14)

Welcome to the club...a lot... (Below threshold)
JimK:

Welcome to the club...a lot of us who had a visceral reaction to the story have now been swayed to the other side after some research and reasoning.

Bush could have made this a triumph...instead he did what he's perfected as president: the art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He could have explained this to us, or sent someone from the administration to explain it, and people would have understood. Instead he let us ponder our worst fears, allowed misinformation to take root and has let his opposition frame the debate. Again.

*sigh*

This issue requires some de... (Below threshold)
Jack:

This issue requires some degree of 'inside knowledge' and as such really stretches the ability of most commentators in the blogosphere--let's face it, how many bloggers have ever been to UAE? To Dubai? Even the Gulf? Yet everyone feels required to have an opinion, no matter how knee-jerk, facile or uniformed. (Ed. Lack of credible information has never stopped newspapers!] So, thanks for holding off for a few days before issuing a fatwa on Bush.

As one of the few Americans to have a current passport filled with UAE stamps, I can tell you with some degree of insight that this is a classic kerfuffle. A non-issue in terms of prospective threats on our ports, but a very real and positive development in our relations with an ally in the Middle East.

One thing folks don't understand is the degree to which the Muslim countries they see portrayed in the news have become secularized through the communication revolution. Though one can still easily incite violence--through a local politician's rent-a-mob, an ambitious cleric or a madrassa hungry for media attention--these events are rejected by the vast majority of the public. Islamic countries want more integration of secular values...but especially, more economic and political freedom. For them, the purchase of the port it is an important and historical moment that signals a closer affiliation with the west and its values. And at no risk to us--in fact, from what I know of Dubai, I'd say the desire to prove itself a good world citizen will mean that the owners prove far more vigilant about potentially dangerous--and humiliating to them--terrorist infiltration on their watch. Unlike inconstant USA, they don't play games. Imagine some serious suffering from potential terrorists found anywhere outside US control by the UAE.


Luckily (for all of us) the communication revolution (computers and cell phones especially) have opened up these countries and secularized their emerging middle-classes--the upper classes have always been secularized, despite outward religiosity. There is in fact an ongoing revolution in Islamic countries...ignored by the western media, of course.

I'm with you on this Jay Te... (Below threshold)
Baggi:

I'm with you on this Jay Tea.

I particularly like when you wrote;

"Third, the Democrats can get away with murder. If one were to put the howlings and rantings of such notables as Senators Clinton, Schumer, and the like into the mouths of conservatives, they'd be labelled as reactionary, protectionist, America-First paranoids alongside Pat Buchanan and his ilk.

This reminded me of Jay Leno last night. He was making wise cracks about the UAE deal and said they were rioting in the middle east. Then he showed a bunch of pictures of terrorists holding up signs that said stuff like, "We support Bush!" Even Usama Bin Laden had a sign saying something possitive about Bush.

Now could you imagine if he did the same sort of jokes about Democrats? I bet Jay would be run off of television.

Bush has the ability to mak... (Below threshold)
EXDemocrat:

Bush has the ability to make the right decisions, most of the time. His failure seems to be in letting us know that.

A very frustration situation for most of us to come to grips with. Especially when you end up supporting the wrong side, at first.

In the age of information overload, the White House is behind the times.

Jay - I haven't been... (Below threshold)

Jay -
I haven't been able to (time and knowledge) confirm my suspicions but here they are:

BushCoTM has perfected the art of seeming to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory". Classic rope-a-dope. Reagan was great at it as well.

Both appear to be, and allow their public image to remain, country bumpkins yet the bold leadership they exhibit is nothing short of stunning. I would wager that in ten or more years we will be learning exactly how Rove or whoever (to satisfy the Left Conspiratorilists) manuevered them into a corner repeatedly.

Does that all make sense?

Mostly i dont comment becau... (Below threshold)
Johnny:

Mostly i dont comment because i cant think of a good place to start, nor stop. i read your blog multiple times each day and many others as well. i am constantly amazed at the number of times 'people' begin their rant with 'I didn't know' or 'We weren't told'. Usually, thats all i need to hear.
The first dissent i remember seeing on this subject was Schumer spewing a sound bite on television. my initial comment was 'well no american company wants to have to deal wuth the mob'.
i seem to remember that he wouldnt be opposed to Haliburton as an operator. imagine that.
As an american i dont have a problem with W not explaining to every possible opponet what the government is doing today. i just HOPE he has some time left every day to deal with what is important.
BTW, i just heard that china is now the 2nd largest oil importer in the world. source:Melinda Liu, Newsweek.

Hmmm.Frankly I bla... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

Frankly I blame Michelle Malkin for this idiotic nonsense. Before she started this nonsense she should have listened to one of her readers that pointed out that this deal is no big deal.

What a waste of time.

There are some huge misperc... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

There are some huge misperceptions of what the deal involves.

All the talk of "owning the ports" or "managing the ports" or "running the ports" is nonsense. People don't seem to understand what a port is.

The deal only pertains to certain freight terminals in the ports. Most shipping companies own their own terminal in ports around the world, and most shipping companies today are based overseas. Now a set of terminals is being sold to an Arab company. They're not the first (United Arab Shipping Company (SAG) has terminals in about a dozen ports in the US).

What is a terminal? It's nothing more than dock space, a set of cranes, and a staging area where trucks take the off-loaded containers and drive them away. Every port has several terminals owned and run by several different offshore companies.

Think of a port as a strip mall on the edge of the ocean. The government owns the mall, the parking lot, the loading docks, and the entrance and exits to the property. A shipping terminal is only one of the units in the mall, and it is leased from the government. The terminal must comply with all the mall's rules and regulations. More importantly, all customers are stopped by the mall police and scrutinized before they're allowed to enter the parking lot and visit their desired store.

The media attention to this has been misleading, and the outcry is severely overblown.

Here's a decent AP story (s... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Here's a decent AP story (shock!) that shows how ignorant Diane Feinstein is about the issue (double shock).

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/W/WST_PORT_SECURITY_WEST_CAOL-?SITE=CATOR&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Fine with me. Since the fa... (Below threshold)

Fine with me. Since the facts are out and it's no big deal... Fine. I can live with that. But if something does get through the ports and does damage to the USA, will we be "nice" and not blame the UAE for it? Even though it's no big deal?

I don't think so.

Tom_with_a_dream:Y... (Below threshold)
Phoenix:

Tom_with_a_dream:

Yes. What you said makes perfect sense. Ten years from now Bush will be granted status as one of our greatest presidents. He just has no use for the MSM, and good for him. Beyond that, he IS a stunner.

mr ho tell you forget that ... (Below threshold)
mr ho:

mr ho tell you forget that Bias stuff.

you no listen and democrats screwed you didnt they?
Why you not see that Bush isnt a Conservative?


Does the Word Duoply mean much?

Perhaps its your Distorted History?
Lemme see Big Business.

Huh. Big Business? Since when did Business have morals?
Secondly I would like to point out that this was
a neo-con trick to anger the Bloggers (ABC the NOTE) of course it was a Neo-con media Trick as
Halperin is pro-Bush Neo-Cons. and the one along with Cohort Malkin. Guess what? It backfired.
ABC is not liberal media as you say.
Its Big Business. Here look.
http://rawstory.com/news/2006/Fox_executives_donate_generously_to_Santorum_0228.html

See Im a Conservative. I drive an old Honda From auction Cars For Kids, maybe 5$ a week in gas. Its paid for and it helped the Kids.
These Politicians LIE LIE LIE
Wake up and help the Real Conservatives defeat Bush.
Heck even Fukuyama says the neo-con movement is dead so does Buckley. Wake UP MSM is bug Business and they WILL and HAVE Lied to YOU and me, I quit listening to it years ago.
Yeh Yeh Delete my post. But the Media is making you look like conspiracy theorists over here with the 'Diabolical' democrats thing.
Cmon Help me wake up the people
MSM isnt LEFT OR RIGHT
ITS FASCIST!

Third, the UAE has been a p... (Below threshold)
mr ho:

Third, the UAE has been a pretty good ally of ours. They've got a few black marks -- for one, they were one of the few nations to give official recognition to the Taliban -- but they've been host to our troops on leave, our warships have been refueled and replenished in their ports, and so on.
-----------------
BARAKATT!!!

Chertoff and the New BCCI Bank -RIGGS
In a recent case, Riggs Bank, located in Washington, D.C.,
agreed to pay a record $25 million in civil penalties for what federal regulators called a "willful,systemic" violation of ant-money laundering laws. Regulators said the bank failed to report, detector even look for clearly suspicious transactions by foreign customers, particularly those connected with the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea. While some Treasury officials have posited that the problems at Riggs Bank are not typical of the banking industry, some members of Congress have wondered if they are more widespread.
-------------------
. Barakaat Boston
18. Barakaat Construction Company
19. Barakaat Enterprise
20. Barakaat Group of Companies
21. Barakaat International
22. Barakaat International Foundation
23. Barakaat International, Inc
24. Barakaat North America, Inc
25. Barakaat Red Sea Telecommunications
26. Barakaat Telecommunications Co Somali
---------------------------
This from a Chertoff Bank Meeting about datamining in 2002http://banking.senate.gov/02_01hrg/012902/chertoff.htm
In addition to the coordinated shut-down of al Barakaat's operation on November 7th, the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts is prosecuting the principals of al Barakaat's Boston branch for operating an unlicenced money transmitting business. Between January and September 2001, while operating without a license under Massachusetts law, Barakaat North America knowingly caused the transfer of over $3,000,000 to banks in the United Arab Emirates. On November 14, 2001, a federal grand jury in Boston returned an indictment charging Liban Hussein, the president of al Barakaat, and his brother, Mohamed Hussein, with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1960 (prohibition of illegal money transmitting businesses). Mohamed Hussein has been detained pending trial, and we are seeking to extradite Liban Hussein through a request made to Canada.

it's been a long time since... (Below threshold)

it's been a long time since i so enjoyed reading posts in the net. two thumbs up! universal boy increase or not: http://www.usatoday.com/ , when Chips Bet Girl Expect when plane is tournament it will steal tv , Standard Opponents Con or not lazy, red, profound nothing comparative to full




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